After buying cheap sunglasses to replace the ones I couldn't find that morning, I stopped in the center of Warren to take a picture of Moosilauke in all her grandeur. As I walked back to my car I saw another photographer heading back to his. "David" I yelled, and sure enough it was David Goodman, author of Classic Backcountry Skiing and my ski partner for the day. He was updating the book and wanted to ski the Gorge Brook trail, which has changed dramatically since the original release of the book. We drove up to the trailhead where we were the first cars there. As we put on ski boots, another car with two people arrived. I was using my Atomic OT skis and 8 year old Merrill SuperComp boots, my usual lift ski setup. This was to be their first tour. David had Karhu Outbounds and Merrill Fusion boots.
I was glad to find that my setup worked fine with some wax for the 1.5 mile trip to the Ravine Lodge. We stopped at the Al Merrill view for a look at the days route and also got some nice turns in the deep, light snow that fell two days before. After crossing the Baker, we put on skins and started the real ascent. It was sunny and warm, which led to the main problem of the day, snow sticking to our skins. By the time we reached the southern facing open slopes of the Carriage Road, it was reaching epidemic proportions. But the sun felt good and the views were breathtaking. There were some snowshoe tracks but no skiers or snowmobiles since the storm. After some grueling climbing with an extra 20 pounds on each ski we reached the col where some fresh snowshoe tracks came up the Glencliff trail. We grabbed a bite to eat, stretched, looked at South Peak, drank water, and headed for the summit.
David pushed on ahead and did a bit of route finding since the trail had lots of bare rock. I followed, slowed by taking pictures of the snow and views, and by being in worse shape. Finally we hit the summit at around 2:30, nearly 5 hours from the start and 5.1 miles later. The sole snowshoer headed back down as we arrived, so we had the place to ourselves. It was probably in the high 20's, bright sunshine, incredible views, and nearly no wind. Not bad for mid-March. After lunch we set out for the true target of the day, photos of us skiing on the northern snowfields with the Francs and Presidentials in the background. Besides being spectacular photos, they could also serve as the cover to the new edition of David's book. We kept moving north, getting trackless snow for the perfect look, carving turns in the slight wind/sun slab for about an hour. It doesn't get better than this.
It was 4:00, time to head down. We skirted the rocky terrain until we hit the Gorge Brook trail. This gave us a nice look back at the snowfields and over to South Peak. The other skiers hiked all the way up Gorge with their skis on their backs, no snowshoes! Fortunately, the snow was pretty forgiving so it didn't hurt our descent but please use snowshoes or skins! They summited and headed down the Carriage Road while we played on the snowfields. As we started down we had wonderful views of Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials. Up high, the sun and wind had created a nasty slab that made the skiing pretty tough. But once we hit the woods, about 500 vertical feet lower, the snow regained its powdery composure. From there down, the skiing was excellent, with some opportunities to leave the trail and pick a line through the open trees. It took about 40 minutes to reach Last Water, where the trail hits Gorge Brook. It's flatter from there out but we had some nice turns and could keep our speed in places. After crossing the Baker and a tiring but short climb past the Ravine Lodge and back up to the access road, the 1.5 mile ski out went surprisingly quickly. We hit the cars at 5:30, for a full 8 hour day.
Days like this don't come that often. Carve Diem - Ski the Day.
Back to White Mountains home page